WHAT THE HECK IS A MEDIATOR AND HOW IS IT DIFFERENT THAN HIRING A LAWYER?
Mediation is a process whereby a couple comes together to meet with and work with a trained, objective, third party to create a satisfactory resolution to contested issues in a divorce. This process avoids court and allows the power of resolving the issues in your case to be transferred from a judge back into the hands of the parties. And who knows the parties’ situation and intricacies of their case better than the parties themselves? Why give the power to decide what happens to your kids, your home, your life to a judge who knows nothing about you or your family?
Mediation sessions are confidential. This means that nothing that occurs in mediation can later be used against you in court or in your divorce litigation should it not settle. It will typically involve an initial meeting with both you and your spouse in the same room to go over the mediation process and what to expect or in different rooms at the request of the parties.
You can come to mediation with attorneys but my personal opinion is that mediation should take place at least at first without your attorneys to establish a trusting and open non-adversarial relationship with your mediator. Sometimes the very presence of lawyers at mediation (again in my opinion), impacts the tone of the entire mediation process. Exchange of information should occur with you and your spouse providing the information outlined in the Divorce Mediation Checklist section of this website to your mediator for discussion.
Following your initial meeting the parties can choose to meet with the mediator privately out of the presence of the other party. Sometimes this allows for a more open discussion regarding sensitive matters.
Should your mediation be successful, your mediator will provide you with a written document signed by each of you that details your agreement. You will leave with a feeling of accomplishment and hopefully pride for having worked together on addressing your issues on your own without contentious fighting and expensive litigation.
No! While in the case of Conscious Uncoupling Solutions, your mediator is an experienced divorce lawyer and can provide you with information on what the law of this state is, she can not guide you with legal advice and does not represent either one of you. The most important goal for a mediator is to allow the parties the power of creating their own settlement so that they can maintain a feeling of accomplishment and achievement over the negotiated compromise of their settlement.
Maybe, maybe not. While a mediator is not allowed to give legal advice to either of you she can provide you with statutes and laws that might apply in your case and can also tell you of possible outcomes. The whole point of mediation is to allow the control of the outcome to be in the parties’ hands, not the judge’s. Mediation is successful when the parties are armed with a general knowledge of the law and then work together with the mediator to come up with great ways to resolve their disputes that work for everyone. If you are able to work out an agreement through mediation, you can then have that agreement reviewed by an attorney when you file your uncontested complaint and ask her any additional questions you may have regarding the process.
Any time is a great time for mediation! But, having a mediation agreement in place before you file for divorce can save you thousands of dollars in attorney fees. (And I mean thousands!!!) Coming to court with a resolution in place will, in most cases, expedite the divorce process. Typically if you have settled all of your issues, there will be no expensive motion filing process, no custody evaluations, no back and forth with lawyers and nasty allegations. The acrimony that so typically underlies many divorces will be limited as will your attorney fees dealing with it.
Successful mediation gives you and your partner the power of creatively resolving your issues and therefore the power to move on in your post-divorce lives with a feeling of accomplishment and pride, knowing that you were able to agree and knowing that you created the best solutions to your issues. It limits the emotional scarring that a divorce can often lead to and gets the parties on their roads to new, successful separate lives.
Anyone other than parties who have domestic violence restraining orders in place and are prohibited from direct communication can and should give mediation a good faith effort. That is why the New Jersey court system has in place a mediation requirement for every divorce case that comes to court and is contested. If you and your partner have discussed the possibility of resolving your issues through mediation regardless of what stage of your divorce you are at, you should schedule your first meeting today. Review the free checklist provided in What to do Before Your First Mediation Session and bring that information with you to your first session.